"Sleeping With the Dinos" (a NYTimes Travel section illustration assignment)

I’ve been creating illustrations on a freelance basis for the New York Times since 1980. Wow, time flies! I’m in my fourth decade of providing illustrations for this publication… amazing! Over the years my illustrations have appeared in the paper’s various sections: The Op/Ed Page, Letters To The Editor Page, Travel, Business, Real Estate, Living, The Arts, The Book Review, The Sunday Magazine, etc… 


Recently I was called upon (by art director John Cohoe) to create a whimsical illustration for a Travel Section piece on museums around the world that provide many interesting after hour events for patrons to experience (see the 2/16/14 issue of the NYTimes) One such special event described was how the Museum of Natural History in NYC and London’s Natural History Museum both offer the experience of actually sleeping over night in the museum, among the fossils, and dinosaur skeletons, and all the others creatures on display. I had my choice of picking any number of other museum experiences mentioned in the article to illustrate, but how could I pass up on the opportunity to create an image of sleeping with the dinosaurs?


Posted here are the steps I went through to make the illustration, though I have very much abbreviated the number of steps… selecting just the main stages. What you do not see are the varied number of very rough sketches I go through before arriving at the one I then show to the art director and editor at the Times for their approval. Nor am I showing the probably ten layers of adjustments I do within Photoshop to finalize the image.



Above ^

This is the initial pencil scribble/doodle I made while reading the manuscript from the writer… just a crude vision of the concept of a person sleeping between two enormous dinosaur skeletons

"Sleeping With the Dinos" (a NYTimes Travel section illustration assignment)

Above ^

This is the final rough sketch. I created it with black crayon and pencil. Here I have worked out the composition within the exact space given to me by the art director to fit within their layout design. Essentially the visual point was to depict a man in his pajamas calmly reading a book before retiring, dwarfed by the enormous and scary looking dinosaur skeletons… a study in odd juxtaposition. It is as if the man is oblivious to the oddity of the clash in scale and time.

"Sleeping With the Dinos" (a NYTimes Travel section illustration assignment)

 Above ^

This is the final rough sketch (with added color) which I then showed to the art director. I scanned my sketch into Photoshop and then quickly added in a textured color blue background, and erased out the area of the skeleton bones to reveal white, plus added in a bit of color for the pajamas and lamp light, etc… This is so the art director can see my general intended color scheme for the illustration. In this particular case I showed the color version of the sketch to the art director because it was so simple, but in many other instances I only show a B&W sketch to the art director because normally I resolve the final color choices as I work on the final art and not before.

"Sleeping With the Dinos" (a NYTimes Travel section illustration assignment)

 Above ^

This is the final crayon and ink drawing of the elements within the illustration: the human character, the skeletons, Big Ben in the background, the bed, lamp, etc…. I then scan it into Photoshop to create the added color and texture layers…

"Sleeping With the Dinos" (a NYTimes Travel section illustration assignment)

 Above ^

Here I have added in a textured blue background layer (that I painted with gouache), but I then cut out skylight shapes at the top and lightened this area to make the sky appear lighter than the inside of the dark museum. I also added in the yellow stars, moon and lamp light.

"Sleeping With the Dinos" (a NYTimes Travel section illustration assignment)

 Above ^

Here I have added in white color and light blue shading for the skeleton bones, the color for Big Ben, the man’s pajamas, and added in some even darker blue shadowing on the back wall.

"Sleeping With the Dinos" (a NYTimes Travel section illustration assignment)

Above ^

In this detail of the man, you can see his meek character, and the subtle texture of the background. After completing the illustration and sending it to the art director… my only change I would have made if I had thought of it, would have been to add in a little sign next to the man with his name on it, maybe “Mr. Wallington.”  (because the two dinosaurs each have their names on a sign near them.)

Visit stevensalerno.com to view my illustration portfolio, and to view my many picture books for children. Be sure to see the NEW STUFF portfolio section.

See full post here: Steven Salerno Blog2014-02-18.